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Planting for the future of cider

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Thatchers Cider has been planting thousands of new apple trees over recent weeks. Over 100,000 trees, including classic bittersweet varieties such as Vilberry, Harry Masters Jersey and Dabinett, as well as new, early variety, Helen, are being planted in and around Thatchers’ mill at Myrtle Farm in Sandford.

A new 7 acre orchard at Myrtle Farm will also be home to a trial of 22 different apple varieties – many classic cider apples that are being grown in the hedgerow style of planting pioneered by Thatchers. Varieties such as Stoke Red, White Jersey, Chisel  Jersey and Tom Putt will be included in the trial – all have been grown previously in the Thatchers Exhibition Orchard (where 458 different varieties are grown in small numbers), and are varieties not traditionally grown by  cidermakers on any scale.

Martin Thatcher, Managing Director of Thatchers Cider, says, “The aim of this particular trial is to identify some of the older and more traditional varieties of apple which, when combined with our own hedgerow techniques, are capable of producing cider of optimum and unique quality, in the Thatchers character and style.”

This year for the first time Thatchers has introduced new shared farming contracts with landowners, as well as planting on its own land at Myrtle Farm, and continuing to work on 25 year contracts with its growers.

“Over 51% of the apples grown in this country are used to make cider,” continues Martin.  “The contribution that the cider industry makes to the rural economy through its orchards is significant, upwards of £30million. But with apple trees taking six or seven years to start cropping fully, and orchards lasting around 40 years, planting orchards now is a long term commitment for the future and a responsibility that we here at Thatchers we take seriously.”

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